Athletes begin conditioning for fall sports

Athletes begin conditioning for fall sports

By: JACKSON WILSON

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

Illinois High School Association member schools were recently permitted to open for voluntary strength and conditioning practices as a result of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s ‘Restore Illinois’ plan.

These sessions were restricted to weightlifting, running and other exercises designed to promote physical fitness without the usage of sports equipment.

Six-feet social distancing has remained in effect and students are being permitted to wear masks when unable to maintain such a practice. This rule cut down on the spectrum of free-weight workout possibilities requiring a spotter.

Sessions have required a pre-determined group limit of 10 individuals or less, including coaches and medical personnel. Interaction between groups or switching based on a certain sport has been avoided.

Coaches have been required to maintain a daily record of where and when athletes are participating in case of symptoms being present. The students have additionally been monitored at the start of practices by having their temperatures taken.

Players have needed to bring their own water bottles, shoes, towels and other forms of equipment due to locker room usage and the sharing of water coolers being prohibited.

As the state moves forward in the pandemic, districts have been encouraged to continue working with local health departments on existing restrictions in their area in order to keep the health and wellness of students a top priority.

Local ADs and coaches discuss plans

There has been a mixture of emotions between local athletic directors and coaches, but they are doing what they can to best cope with the situation heading into the fall sports’ season.

“This is an unprecedented, fluid situation,” said Carlinville High School athletic director Darrin DeNeve. “I think the IHSA is doing what they can within the rules of the state. I think kids are ready to start doing something, so the ability to do anything could certainly be viewed as beneficial.  Our student-athletes will certainly gain from getting some exercise this summer.”

“I would of obviously loved the kids to be able to partake in their normal routines, but their safety is what matters most,” said Gillespie High School athletic director Mike Bertagnolli. “It’s all about the athletes and everyone else taking time out of their day to work with them.”

“We knew we couldn’t just sit around and do nothing,” said Carlinville football coach Chad Easterday. “It’s obviously just been outside activities for us, but at least we’re out staying in shape. We were allowed to meet four or five days a week at the start, but we didn’t do that. I thought that was a little overkill because it had been a while since the kids last stepped onto a field. Anything extra wouldn’t have been necessary, so I think we’re off to a great start.”

“Since we haven’t really seen anybody since March, it’s been nice to engage with all of the players and their families again,” said Gillespie football coach Jake Bilbruck. “It’s been rather dissappointing and upsetting not being able to do drills and much more than what we can do right now, but the kids have enjoyed being out there and they have all come ready to work. I’m just thankful that we have something.”

“We’ve still been able to do back workouts, abs, jumps and cardio training,” said Carlinville volleyball coach Kaitie Hammann. “I think that’s still a lot based on what we’ve had to work with.”

“Our guys have been assigned workouts but they’ve kind of been on their own at this current point,” said Carlinville boys’ soccer coach Tim Johnson. “However, we’re going to start training as a team this week.”

The Carlinville cross country team hopes to begin practices this week as well.

Phase 4 to take effect June 26

If everything goes according to plan, contests and practices with up to 50 participants and limited spectators can begin when Illinois enters the fourth phase of Pritzker’s plan June 26.

If fans are permitted to attend events, they will be encouraged to sit in a designated area with existing seating covering a capacity of 20 percent.

Multiple practice groups of 50 or fewer can be permitted in a facility as long as they are maintaining a 30-foot distance from each other.

Students are currently being limited to three hours of participation per day, but the timeframe will be extended to five hours if the IHSA enters the second stage of its process, which will occur at the start of Phase 4. Spotters will also be allowed.

Consistent sanitization will be required for any means of equipment between usage, especially after contact is made.

If sporting events or games are held, handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, hugs and other celebratory engagements involving contact will not be allowed between players or coaches.

“This will certainly be a lot different moving forward,” said DeNeve. “Any changes that are made will likely just need an adjustment period. As far as the lack of high fives or fist bumps or things like that, kids and coaches are creative. They will figure out something to foster team spirit and camaraderie.”

“I don’t think the kids really care if there’s anybody in the stands or that they’re not able to partake in handshakes and all that,” said Bilbruck. “They just want to play football and that means a lot to coaches as well as the seniors and their families. Even if things seem a little too overprotective, the kids are safe and that’s the most important thing if we do indeed have a season.”

“If we can’t do a handshake, we’ll do a chicken wing or figure something else out,” said Easterday. “We respect the IHSA for the work its committee is doing. Everyone over there is doing their best to keep everything flowing smoothly. All we can do is continue to display good sportmanship and do our best to make something work rather than getting caught up in all of the opinions people have about this.”

For coaches who had grown to be very engaged with their players on sidelines and during timeouts, the new guidelines were viewed as bittersweet and rather difficult to adapt to at first.

“We will do what we can to follow the regulations and I know we will be able to, but it’s honestly going to be tough at the start because those generally are natural reactions,” said Johnson. “My motto is ‘safety first,’ but displaying a way of telling someone ‘good job’ or giving them a ‘high five’ is a great way to grow up and let someone know you have their back. In my opinion, that gets even more important when you get to the high school age.”

“We haven’t even thought about not being able to do supportive gestures and our secret handshakes yet,” said Hammann. “We’re such a tightly-knitted team which is why this is going to be such a big change for us. When the time comes, we’ll definitely figure something out, but it’s going to strip us of a lot of the tradition that we have. Those little things that make us Carlinville volleyball won’t be the same.”

The Carlinville football team is currently attempting to get other squads around to play 7-on-7 matches.

All basketball games have been called off for the summer, but CHS varsity head coach Dave Suits plans to get his players some open gym time as the state enters the next phase.

“Any way we can get work in helps,” said Suits.

Other IHSA guidelines

If COVID-19 symptoms are present, players should not participate and should be referred to a physician for evaluation and testing. If tested positive, that individual will not be allowed to take part in any sort of school atheltic activity and should contact his or her primary care provider or other appropriate healthcare professional.

If available, it is encouraged that athletic trainers or medical personnel be available for workouts. They should be masked for any interactions with athletes and maintain a six-foot distance when feasible.

It is the responsibility of each school to comply with all requirements posted by the IHSA.

All IHSA  requirements will be subject to adjustment if any conditions should warrant.